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This month’s excerpt is drawn again from Beneath His Touch. The outrageous bet portrayed below was recorded in the famous betting book at White’s and was typical of how many bored aristocrats threw away their money during Prince George’s Regency. In today’s terms, the 3,000 pound wager would translate to a little over 2.1 million British pounds or 3.52 million in U.S. dollars. The hero is disgusted that the heroine thinks him capable of such excess and frivolities but has been unable to convince her of the inconsequential nature of the bets between him and his friend, the Viscount Barrington.
As always, any comments or criticisms are welcome.
James turned up the collar on his great coat against the rising wind. The weather suited his mood. He slowed his horse to a walk as they turned the corner onto St. James Street.
Light flooded from the front windows of White’s—a haven of masculine society—into the night. A similar pool of light marked Brook’s establishment farther down the street.
He dismounted, handing off the reins to a footman, and proceeded up the front steps. Alvanley held court at the table directly before the bow window. With Beau Brummel’s hasty departure for the continent, the throne of the club’s most socially influential member had passed to Baron Alvanley.
James had little interest in the sartorial domain over which Brummel and Alvanley presided. He gladly donned the simple, dark suit of the London dandy, but only out of expediency and comfort, not any heightened sense of fashion. His uncle’s valet tied his cravats in whatever manner suited he pleased for James was not particular about his neckcloths.
The footman stationed inside the door collected James’ hat and coat. A nod to the harried majordomo served as a greeting. The quiet upper rooms of the club were preferable to the crowded main floor this evening. James fancied a stiff brandy and some solitude. Miss Gifford could complain about his drinking habits all she wanted. His consumption had risen dramatically since her arrival.
He needed to focus on his task of getting his cousins married. It would truly be a waste if they were forced to marry scoundrels of Estwicke and Swinburne’s ilk. With the way news traveled so quickly through the ton, everyone would be talking about his disgraceful behavior by tomorrow, reducing the girl’s chances for a suitable match.
He wandered past rooms where men played whist or hazard or debated politics, all good Tory arguments. He avoided their laughter and headed toward the sound of a harpsichord being expertly played.
“Surprised to see you here tonight, Bolster. Brandy?” Without missing a beat, Lord Blackwood gestured to the tray on the instrument before him. “Heard you lost control of your party at Threapwood’s.”
“Not exactly, Blackwood. Just my temper.” James sank into the nearest chair and settled in to be questioned. His old school chum was nothing if not thorough. Discreet, but he always wanted to uncover the truth behind the latest gossip himself.
“And you bloodied Barrington’s nose. Close friends only come to blows over a woman.” Blackwood ‘s long fingers danced over the keys. “Who is she?”
“An employee. I’ve hired a new companion for my cousins. When Barrington—I misunderstood his intentions.” His own intentions were far more easily grasped for their baser roots.
“Perhaps it was just another one of his pranks.”
Barrington’s reckless obsession with attracting society’s attention made no sense. He’d never drawn his friends into one of his stunts without their consent. Murder would be too light a punishment for him if tonight were the first. “One can hope.”
“My condolences on your recent losses. One would think your grief alone would excuse a little overreaction on your part.”
“The ton lives for scandal broth.” The gossips would have a field day with tonight’s incident. Henri and Juliet did not deserve to be caught up in his mess.
“Wyndham House has always provided a simmering pot.”
James shrugged. His aunts deserved to live out their remaining years in peace after surviving the tittle-tattle that had naturally followed the Wyndham men. History could not be argued with and he’d instigated enough indignities in his youth.
“Your cousins have grown into lovely young ladies. I understand that their presence will grace many ballrooms and salons this Season.”
“That is the plan.” The plan included neither Henri’s desire to act as if she were the son Uncle Robert never had nor Juliet’s need to flirt with every man who crossed her path. His family’s drift toward the line of social suicide must be halted.
If Miss Gifford could be trusted, she might be their only chance to live up to his uncle’s expectations. If he could ignore his growing attraction to her. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
“I wish you the best in your endeavors, Bolster.” Blackwood closed the keyboard cover on the harpsichord and stood. “The hour grows late and it sounds as if the storm is about to break. A pleasure to see you.”
James stood and replaced his glass on the tray. “I’ll walk out with you. My head is much clearer than when I arrived. Perhaps the rain will hold off until I reach home.”
“Unlikely, I hear the rain hitting the windows already.”
As they reached the foyer, a loud cheering came from Alvanley’s table by the bow window. James arched an eyebrow at the unusual fervor exciting the usually sedate dandy court.
The majordomo approached them. “Your Grace, would you care to join the bet or enter one of your own in the book?”
Grown men hunched around the window, cheering on unseen racers. Only an imbecile would run a footrace in the dark, at this late hour. Stranger things had gone on the books here at White’s. “What’s the current bet?”
“Alvanley has bet Pierrepoint three thousand pounds that his raindrop will reach the bottom of the pane first.”
“I shall pass.” James shook his head. Miss Gifford’s reaction to the trivial wager between himself and Barrington struck him as a more appropriate response to a colossal waste of time and money such as this vulgar display.
“You’d think they’d learn from Brummel’s mistakes instead of doggedly trotting along in his footsteps.” Blackwood accepted his greatcoat from a footman and shrugged it on. He twirled his hat in his hand before donning it. “A good evening to you, Bolster.”
The cheering around the bow window exploded into a divisive din of victory and defeat. James cared nothing for the outcome and slipped out the front door to fetch his horse. At least he would not be walking home in the rain.
His boots echoed smartly on the marble stairs and he collected the reins from the footman holding his horse. He swung up into the saddle and tossed a shilling to the young man for his trouble.
His horse’s hooves splashed through the growing puddles. The city needed a good rain to wash away the stench and coal dust that only seemed to fester and linger with the pervasive fog that crept through the streets.
Turning left at Piccadilly took him past Green Park, where dark shadows lurked beneath the trees of the Queen’s Walk. A crack of lightning raced across the sky, outlining the landscape with eerie silhouettes and causing his horse to dance nervously.
“Easy, boy. Nothing to be afraid of.”
A flash of movement flickered at the edge of his vision while thunder echoed off the nearby buildings. Scenarios rushed through his mind. A tree swaying in the wind or someone taking cover behind it. The rain beat down harder, muffling clatter of a distant carriage as it retreated up Halfmoon Street.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy some of my other Excerpt Monday offerings.
Links to other Excerpt Monday writers
Note: I have not personally screened these excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.
Stephanie Draven, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Babette James, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Cynthia Justlin, Contemporary YA (PG 13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Christa McHugh, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Debbie Mumford, Time-Travel Historical Romance (PG13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)
Megan S, Paranormal (PG13)
Dara Sorensen, Historical Fiction (PG13)
Bethanne Stausser, Romantic Suspense (PG13)
Rosalind Stone, YA Fantasy (PG 13)
Flicka Holt, Contemporary Romance (R)
KB Alan, Erotic Paranormal Romance (R)
Cate Hart, YA Paranormal (R)
Cherrie Lynn, Erotic Contemporary Romance (R)
Inez Kelley, Fantasy/Shifter Romance (R)
Aislinn Kerry, Fantasy (R)
Christa Paige, Paranormal Romance (R)
Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Rebecca Savage, Romantic Suspense (R)
Jeanne St.James, Contemporary Romance (R)
C.M. Torrens, Urban Fantasy (R)
Paige Tyler, Erotic Romance (R)
Vivienne Westlake, Paranormal Romance (R)
Stephanie Adkins, Erotic Romantic Suspense (NC17)
Evie Byrne, Paranormal Romance (NC 17)
Ella Drake, Erotic Paranormal Romance (NC17)
Angeleque Ford, Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Kim Knox, Erotic SF Romance (NC17)
Emily Ryan-Davis, Erotic Historical Western (NC17)
Dawn Montgomery, Erotic Contemporary Romance (NC 17)
Kirsten Saell, Erotic Fairy Tale Romance (NC17)
Bryl R Tine, Erotic Contemporary m/m (NC17)